Chivas Regal Blending Session at Ronnie Scott’s
I was invited to attend a Chivas Regal blending session at the iconic location, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. It was a cold Wednesday evening as I made my way across London and headed over to Soho to expand my knowledge of blended whiskys. Until today I only really knew of Bells and Teachers so to be trying a blended whisky that was more of a premium product, was something I was looking forward to.
Chivas Regal is the market-leading 12-year-old scotch in both Asia & Europe with over 4 million crates of their products sold per year.
Ronnie Scott’s is well located, not far from a number of London Underground tube stations and a short walk from Tottenham Court Road Tube station or Leicester Square Tube station. Today was certainly a day for not driving!
Now located on Frith Street, this world renounded venue is split into two parts. Downstairs you have the main club which has hosted many famous musicians, and upstairs you have a smaller area but still just as cool. If you have missed out on tickets for the main show, then enjoying the musicians they have in the upstairs bar will certainly help ease the pain!
Chivas Regal is a blended Scottish Whisky with it roots going back to the 1800’s. The Chivas Brothers ran a department store that sold luxury goods. They were granted a Royal Warrant for Queen Victoria. Its home is based in Speyside, Scotland where it is made in the oldest distillery in the Highlands. They have 3 ages – 12, 18 & 25 years – shared over 7 products.
Did you know? – Blended Whisky accounts for 90% of all the whisky sold!
The Blending Session
Arriving at Ronnie Scotts we were directed upstairs to Ronnie’s Bar. The tables had all been set up with 6 places per a table and with more whisky than I’ve seen in one place for a long time! As long as 4 other people turn up, I should get out of here alive!
As this is a blending session we were provided with a measuring jug and a funnel. This would be to help us create our own blended creations. The smaller bottles in the background looked important and although they had their own tags, they might as well have just said ‘drink me’!
First of the Day!
Soon after we were seated a waitress comes over and offers us a drink. Sure, with all the whisky we’d be drinking what we definitely need is some drink to start. Two ‘Old Fashioned’ were placed in front of us to get us in the whisky mood.
Old Fashioned is a simple looking drink, as you can see. The skill comes in using a quality whisky, like Chivas Regal 12-year-old, and getting your mixture of bitters and sugar correct. A single ice cube and the orange peel set off the look of the drink. When I took my first sip I was instantly transported back to being a teenager and stealing a drink from my parent’s drink cabinet.
Did you know? – Blended Whisky is the most drunk spirit in the world!
On The Table
We were given the history of Chivas Regal and how Blended Whisky came about. It was fascinating to hear that two lucky acts really helped to promote blended whisky through-out the world.
- Steam Ships were invented – allowing products made in the UK to be exported to the entire world
- Phylloxera epidemic – This wiped out grapes across europe and so the upper class people had no wine to drink, and it was replaced with blended whisky and soda water – Scotch & soda.
The host then went on to explain what was on the table. There were 5 bottles of whisky and we’d be using these to create our own blend. First up we had the Strathisle. This is a 12-year-old single-malt scotch that is used for the Chivas Regal blends.
Next we were introduced to the grain whisky. This isn’t a commercially available product and, like the Strathisla, was also 12 years old. The recommendation was that we’d use between 40-60% of the grain whisky in our personal blends.
As it isn’t usually sold, the label is fairly plain & boring. It does confirm that it was a 12 year old grain scotch whisky however at this point in the evening the bottle was full! As we had to use this as the largest % off our own blends, the bottle soon became empty.
The final 3 whiskys were our flavours – Creamy, Citrus, & Smoky. Creamy would give it some mouth texture with a flavour of toffee apples. The Citrus would bring the flavour to the mid-palette and expand the flavour to more fruit. The smoky was the one I wasn’t looking forward to. I don’t like peat whiskys and I really don’t like the smokiness that some whiskys have so this isn’t a flavour I want to put into my own blend.
As part of the tasting instructions we were recommended to have a 1 part water to 2 parts whisky. This is something a good friend of mine recommended many years ago so I now have all my whiskys with a splash of water. He did give me the reasoning behind it however those facts have long since left my head!
Although I wasn’t wanting to put any of the ‘Smoky’ into my blend. The host of the evening advised that it was required to give the whisky a rounded flavour. Even non-smoky blended whiskys have some smoky-flavoured whisky added to the blend. This was a shock for me as I was hoping to go without it.
Now it was time to get down to business – lets do a blending! I went with 45% as my Grain whisky content, 30% for the single malt, 15% for the creamy, 15% for the citrus and then 5% for the smoky. The eagle-eyed readers out there will notice that doesn’t add up to 100% but instead adds up to 110%. I really didn’t want to add any smoky but decided to in the end as it was supposed to be vital to the flavour. I decided that 5% should be safe enough but in tasting it I quickly realised that I’d made a huge mistake!
Luckily there was a chance at salvation. Although we were on a table for 6 people, 2 people didn’t turn up so we had some spare blending bottles. I decided to try my blend again but leaving out the smoky flavour.
And I’m sure you are still eagle-eyed and you’ll see this blend was 120% of ingredients! I wanted to remove the smokiness but also stick to something closer in flavour to the single-malt. For this reason, the single malt and the the grain whisky was going to be the majority of the blend with just a tickling of the citrus and creamy flavours.
This was our final treat of the evening – as if we’d not drunk enough whisky. The Chivas Regal 18 year old Gold! This was the nicest thing I drank all day, not including my special own blends! I did ask if this was the 25-year old but 5 times the price! We were also told of a bottle that Chivas Regal do that is £2k each – we didn’t get to try that one, either!
The Final Thought
What an excellent evening. I’ve not drunk that much whisky in an hour before in my life! The host gave a quick, but detailed, history to blended whiskys and their travel across the globe. There were about 10 tables in total but at no point did I feel like other people in the room affected my enjoyment of the event. The host worked the room answering people’s questions about blended whiskys and Chivas Regal as a company.
The venue was outstanding. Ronnies Bar has a sky light that the main club room doesn’t. This natural light helped improve the feel of the event – as the sun set the room became darker and this made the drinking of whisky more appropriate. I don’t think anyone in the room expected to drink as much as they did. As our session was up the bar staff began clearing the tables. Thankfully they started with the mixing equipment and water glasses and left us all to finish up the remaining whisky on our tables. Of course there was room for more tasty Chivas Regal whisky!